Environmental and public health groups announced their intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in federal court Jan. 18 to force the release of long awaited public health safeguards against toxic coal ash. The EPA has delayed the first-ever federal protections for coal ash for nearly two years despite more evidence of leaking ponds, poisoned groundwater supplies and threats to public health.
Earthjustice, on behalf of Appalachian Voices (N.C.), Chesapeake Climate Action Network (Md.), Environmental Integrity Project, French Broad Riverkeeper (N.C.), Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (Ky.), Moapa band of Paiutes (Nev.), Montana Environmental Information Center (Mont.), Physicians for Social Responsibility, Prairie Rivers Network (Ill.), Sierra Club and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (Tenn.), sent the EPA a notice of intent to sue the agency under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The law requires the EPA to ensure that safeguards are regularly updated to address threats posed by wastes. However, the EPA has never undertaken any action to ensure safeguards address the known threats posed by coal ash, a toxic mix of arsenic, lead, hexavalent chromium, mercury, selenium, cadmium and other dangerous pollutants that result from burning coal at coal-fired power plants.
A copy of the Notice of Intent to Sue letter sent to the EPA is available here.
Following a spill of more than a billion gallons of coal ash at a disposal pond in Harriman, Tenn., in December 2008, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced in 2009 plans to set federal coal ash regulations by year’s end. In May 2010, the EPA proposed a hybrid regulation to classify coal ash either as hazardous or non-hazardous waste. After eight public hearings across the country and more than 450,000 public comments, the agency decided to delay finalizing the rule amid intense pressure from the coal and power industries.
The following video shows the devastating results of the Harriman, Tennessee coal ash spill:
Despite numerous studies showing the inadequacy of current federal coal ash safeguards to protect public health and the environment as well as documented evidence by the EPA and environmental groups showing coal ash poisoned aquifers and surface waters at 150 sites in 36 states, the EPA continues to fail to adopt federal safeguards. The Jan. 18 lawsuit would force the EPA to set deadlines for review and revision of relevant solid and hazardous waste regulations to address coal ash, as well as the much needed and overdue changes to the test that determines whether a waste is hazardous under RCRA.
“Politics and pressure from corporate lobbyists are delaying much needed health protections from coal ash,” said Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans. “The law states that the EPA should protect citizens who are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals in their drinking water from coal ash. As we clean up the smokestacks of power plants, we can’t just shift the pollution from air to water and think the problem is solved. The EPA must set strong, federally enforceable safeguards against this toxic menace.”
“It’s well past time for the EPA to do something about this hazardous waste,” said Anne Hedges, program director of the Montana Environmental Information Center. “Our biggest coal ash ponds in Montana are leaking and have been leaking for decades.”
“For far too long the Tennessee Valley Authority has been allowed to ignore the dangers of coal ash, resulting in the 2008 Kingston disaster, one of the worst environmental catastrophes of our time,” said Josh Galperin, policy analyst and research attorney for Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Despite the lessons of Kingston and an explicit congressional mandate, coal ash continues to be unregulated by the EPA. We are taking action today to drive EPA to follow-through on its legal duty to protect Americans from this toxic waste.”
“Data on groundwater at coal ash disposal sites is now available, and the results in Illinois and many other states are grim,” said Traci Barkley, water resources scientist with Prairie Rivers Network. “State regulators found high levels of coal ash pollutants in groundwater at all 22 sites in our state. Seeing that our state’s rules have not protected our residents and our clean water, we need to know that the EPA will get the job done.”
“Right now our organization is involved in several lawsuits against old, leaking coal ash landfills in Maryland,” said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, staff attorney with Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Dangerous coal ash is leaching into waterways that hurt the Chesapeake Bay and could be threatening the health of Maryland citizens. The EPA has a responsibility to issue a uniform, strong rule to address coal ash so groups like ours don’t have to fight to clean them up, facility by facility, at the state level.”
“With a state legislature bent on weakening the ability to protect public health, North Carolinians are calling on the EPA to demonstrate political leadership by providing strong and consistent federal guidelines for coal ash disposal and storage,” said Sandra Diaz, North Carolina campaign coordinator for Appalachian Voices.
“With many coal ash dumps located in populated areas, the public depends on the EPA to do everything possible to protect our health and keep our communities safe,” said Mary Love, member of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth. “We need strong standards so we can not only clean up communities that have already been poisoned but make sure these toxic chemicals never again leak into our homes and communities.”
“The EPA promised to set standards for coal ash disposal sites more than a decade ago,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director at Environmental Integrity Project. “Are we going to have to wait for another disaster before EPA finally keeps that promise?”
“The toxic threat that coal ash poses to human health is severe,” said Dr. Maureen McCue, MD, PhD, of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Coal ash contains contaminants that can cause cancer and can damage the intestines, liver, kidney, lungs, heart, peripheral nervous system and brain. It’s unthinkable that the EPA allows this toxic stew to get into drinking water. It doesn’t get much dirtier than this.”
“Our children are losing more than their health because of the power plants; they’re losing their culture, too,” said William Anderson, chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiutes in southeastern Nevada. “We used to hunt ducks and geese on our land—but no longer. The birds land in the coal wastewater ponds. We used to harvest medicinal plants, but not anymore. The plants have been contaminated over the years by the plant’s coal ash dust, soot and other pollutants.”
“Two of the nation's 49 high hazard coal ash dams sit on the banks of the French Broad River. These ponds pose a looming threat to the health and safety of the surrounding community, as well as the French Broad River,” said Hartwell Carson, French Broad Riverkeeper. “The dams also hold back toxic coal ash that pollutes the groundwater and surface water every day. It is time for the EPA to act to protect the French Broad River and the hundreds of similarly impacted rivers and communities around the country.”
“The EPA must act and they must act soon,” said Bruce Nilles, senior campaign director for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. “Millions of tons of toxic waste from coal plants—coal ash containing arsenic, lead, mercury and other dangerous pollution—are dumped across the country each year, often without basic safety protections. Even though the EPA has identified more than four dozen highly dangerous coal ash sites around the country they have still failed to safeguard the health and well being of those living near the dumping grounds. We urge the EPA to take definitive action to protect American families and communities.”
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Bringing your own reusable grocery bags when you go shopping is one of the easiest ways to cut down on your plastic consumption — according to the UN Environment Program, up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used globally each year.The most sustainable option is to use a bag you already have, whether it's an old tote or a laundry basket (thank TikTok for that idea). You can also make your own reusable grocery bags out of T-shirts. But if you'd rather purchase designated reusable grocery bags, here are our recommendations.
ChicoBag<p>Standard reusable grocery bags — foldable cloth "green bags" that typically have company logos on them — are bulky, can't be machine washed, and tend to break down after a number of uses. <a href="https://www.amazon.com/ChicoBag-Original-Reusable-Shopping-Grocery/dp/B006WA9LRA" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ChicoBag reusable grocery bags</a> solve these problems and more. They hold up to 25 pounds each, can be tossed in the wash, and stuff down into a tiny attached pouch that you can easily keep in your purse or the center console of your car until you need them.</p><p><strong>Customer rating:</strong> 4.8 out of 5 stars with over 1,000 Amazon reviews</p><strong>Why buy: </strong>Machine washable; Certified B Corp; Climate Neutral Certified; Supports 1% For the Planet; Fair Labor Association member
Lotus Sustainables<p>If you prefer bigger reusable grocery bags that add convenience to your shopping experience, <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Trolley-COOLER-Reusable-Grocery-Eco-friendly/dp/B07WTLWF4Z?th=1" target="_blank">Lotus Trolley Bags</a> may be perfect for you. These bags fold flat and nestle in your cart so that you can sort items while you shop. There's a large insulated cooler bag, as well as two standard reusable shopping bags and a bag with pockets for wine bottles and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/brown-eggs-healthier-than-white-eggs-2314254330.html" target="_self">egg cartons</a>. Each can hold up to 50 pounds and has double-stitched seams for added durability.</p><p><strong>Customer rating: </strong>4.6 out of 5 stars with over 3,000 Amazon reviews</p><strong>Why buy:</strong> Machine washable; Removable rod for non-cart use; Supports 1% for the Planet
BAGGU<p>For another versatile option, try the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07N4D829J?tag=ecowatch-20&linkCode=ogi&th=1&psc=1" target="_blank">Baggu Standard Reusable Shopping Bag</a>. This product is modeled after a conventional <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/thailand-plastic-bag-ban-2643538829.html" target="_self">plastic grocery bag</a> but is made with 40% recycled ripstop fabric. Baggu reusable bags can carry up to 50 pounds but stuff down into a five-inch internal pocket for carrying.</p><p><strong>Customer rating:</strong> 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 50 Amazon reviews</p><strong>Why buy:</strong> Machine washable; Made with 40% recycled materials; Ethically manufactured; Packaging made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified material
Ecodunia<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Ecodunia-Canvas-Tote-Women-Eco-Conscious/dp/B08LY82NYW/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Ecodunia&qid=1613051665&sr=8-1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ecodunia's reusable bags</a> have a sturdier feel than most products on this list. The canvas used to make each bag is produced from 100% renewable resources and natural cotton, plus they have long handles for comfortable carrying over your shoulder. Ecodunia's fun prints will likely make you want to use these bags for more than carting groceries, but they're great for a weekend trip to the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/farmers-markets-coronavirus-safety-2645581711.html" target="_self">farmers market</a>.</p><p><strong>Customer rating:</strong> 5 out of 5 stars with under 5 Amazon reviews</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>Made from natural cotton; Machine washable; Handmade; Provides dignified work for communities in Kenya </p>
Simple Ecology<p>Another canvas bag option comes from <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Ecology-Reusable-Shopping-Certified/dp/B086Z7XQ79?ref_=ast_sto_dp" target="_blank">Simple Ecology</a>. This brand's eco-friendly grocery bags are made with Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton and feature pop-out sleeves for more fragile goods and double-stitched seams for extra reinforcement. The large size has about the same capacity as a grocer's paper bag. Simple Ecology also has a reusable bag <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N6AUMBG/ref=sspa_dk_detail_2?psc=1&pd_rd_i=B01N6AUMBG&pd_rd_w=MA3ZS&pf_rd_p=cbc856ed-1371-4f23-b89d-d3fb30edf66d&pd_rd_wg=hVunQ&pf_rd_r=G6RTQ1Z5DKEY325MAJZ9&pd_rd_r=5d298b3a-1be7-4ebd-a9e1-d5d672a40497&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUExMzc4RVAxWjNLOTdCJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwNTc0NTAwMzBDMjFYOVJPTUpWSCZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwNjYyOTM4M0s4Vk81SVBPS1NFSyZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2RldGFpbF90aGVtYXRpYyZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=" target="_blank">starter kit</a> that comes with a tote and several reusable produce bags.</p> <p><strong>Customer Rating: </strong>4.6 out of 5 stars with over 900 Amazon reviews</p><strong>Why Buy:</strong> GOTS certified; Machine washable; Biodegradable; Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certified packaging when purchased from manufacturer
BagPodz<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/BagPodz-Reusable-Bag-Storage-System/dp/B00QJ9PBBY" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">BagPodz Reusable Shopping Bags</a> are all about convenience. You can get a pack of five or 10 bags, all of which fit in a low-profile "pod" that can be stored for use on the go. When at the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/vancouvers-grocery-store-plastic-bags-2638807121.html" target="_self">grocery store</a>, the pod clips to your cart and has an easy-dispense pocket for when it's time to check out. After use, just stuff them back into the pod. BagPodz reusable bags are made with Bluesign® certified materials, which means they're manufactured sustainably.</p> <p><strong>Customer Rating:</strong> 4.8 out of 5 stars with over 2,000 Amazon reviews</p><strong>Why Buy: </strong>Machine washable; Made with Bluesign certified material